Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Reform Plan that Makes Some Sense

Leather Helmet Blog has this proposal from college football commentator Tony Barnhart, "a five-part plan to cure what ails college football":

1. Find a way for the top 60 to 70 schools that play major college football to work independently from the NCAA. The sport has become too big to be managed within in the limitations of the NCAA framework. If a way cannot be found to accommodate these schools then they should leave the NCAA and form their own organization and make their own rules.

2. Create a commissioner of college football. My CBS colleague Tim Brando has been saying this for years, and he's right. Somebody needs to be in charge for the good of the entire sport. On cases like Cam Newton and the Ohio State Five, the commissioner has the last word. He or she will have zero tolerance for cheating (and there is a difference between cheating and breaking the rules). Only a strong commissioner, backed up by the presidents, can bring the risk-reward for cheating back into balance.

3. Freshmen will be declared ineligible. There is a whole host of pathologies that are created by a recruiting process that tells 18-year-old children they are stars and should be treated (and paid) like one. Until 1972, freshmen were not eligible to play. There was a reason for that. Most are not mature enough, emotionally or academically, to commit to big-time college football. It's simple. If you make your grades as a freshman and prove that you can handle college life, then you get to play as a sophomore. Would this be tough to do with only 85 scholarships? Yep. But it's for the greater good. This will never happen, but it would address a lot of ills.

4. Football scholarships become five-year commitments by the school. In exchange for giving up freshman eligibility, the student athlete will get a five-year guaranteed scholarship if he stays in good academic standing and doesn't get in trouble with the law. The one-year scholarship is a bad deal for the students. Red-shirting is eliminated. And one other thing: No oversigning. No gray-shirting. You sign a kid and he gets a scholarship. Period.

5. Change the scholarship to include the full cost of attendance. The top academic scholarships include a stipend for incidental living expenses based on the location of the campus. Athletic scholarships should do the same. This stipend of several thousand dollars (plus a Pell Grant that can be as much as $5,500) takes the argument off the table that athletes from poor backgrounds do not have spending money. The NCAA has a Student Opportunity fund of more than $50 million available to help students in need (clothes, trips home in an emergency, etc.).

--Barnhart's proposal makes a good starting point.  Reforms like these could reduce the cheating and inequities that currently plague the game.  They are a step toward a level playing field and equity for the athletes.  In particular, a commissioner and a separate governing body for the top 60-70 schools would create much more responsive and manageable oversight for the the sport..

Would Larry Scott be a good candidate for commissioner of college football?  He's off to a strong start as head of the PAC-12.

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